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Should Distracted Walking Be Illegal?

We’re all familiar with the dangers of distracted driving. California has been one of the most progressive states in the nation to combat the practice – it has a statewide texting and handheld device ban. In an attempt to control the number of distracted driving-related injuries and deaths, California adopted stringent policies that enhance public safety.

Now, one San Francisco lawmaker wants to extend these rules to distracted pedestrians. But just how distracted are pedestrians? Do they contribute to accidents? How will a new proposal affect public safety? Here’s everything you need to know.

A Distracted Walking Law?

The San Mateo County Supervisor, David Canepa, is adamant about his proposal about distracted walking. He aims to grant police officers the authority statewide to issue tickets to pedestrians who are walking and holding their phones, without regard to their surroundings.

Canepa cites the fact that pedestrian accidents make up a quarter of all traffic fatalities – and he believes this because people pay more attention to their screens than to the road.

Though many Californians will balk at the proposal, Canepa adds the caveat that this will only apply to pedestrians who use their phones on the crosswalk. It will apply to more than just texting – using social media networks or perusing the internet will also be applicable. Canepa touts the proposal as a “21st Century solution…to a 21st Century problem.”

Some California residents believe that the rule is overkill, yet another example of the government stepping in to save people from themselves. Some feel that pedestrians should be responsible for their own actions – and that includes any injuries they may sustain as a result of their own negligence.

Distracted Walking in Montclair

While the statewide proposal is new, it’s not without precedent. One small California town already has a distracted walking law on the books: the city of Montclair, nestled in the Los Angeles suburbs, carries a three-figure fine for the practice.

The law went into effect in January of 2018. Now, anyone who talks on the phone, looks at their phone, or uses headphones while crossing the street may face a fine. Excluded from the law are 911 calls, first responders on duty, and people who use hearing aids.

For a first offense, pedestrians can face fines of $100. A second offense carries a fine of $200, and $500 for every subsequent offense.

Will It Make a Difference in the Number of Accidents?

The jury is still out on whether a distracted walking law will actually lead to fewer accidents and injuries. Recent research shows that walking and texting is not the accident-causing public hazard some officials make it out to be. One study found insufficient data to corroborate claims that distracted walking contributes to more pedestrian accidents, but street plans that prioritize cars over walkability do present a problem. Will the law reduce the number of accidents while lawmakers address issues with infrastructure?

Will the Measure Pass?

Before it can be determined if a distracted walking law will reduce the number of accidents, it must first be approved. The distracted walking law is in its infancy – more of a discussion than a final proposal. The issue must go to a state legislature and pass both the Senate and the House before the governor signs it into law. This process could take months, or even longer if the legislature is rejected.

In the meantime, pedestrians should take precautions and remain alert at crosswalks. Be aware of your surroundings and never assume that a car will stop for you. A driver could well be texting and driving and might not notice you. By taking charge of your own actions, you can reduce your risk of being in a pedestrian accident.

If you have been a victim in a pedestrian accident due to another’s negligence, the personal injury lawyers at Henshaw & Henry can help. Contact us today to schedule your free consult and learn how we may be able to help secure the compensation you deserve.